The sunday before the kids returned to school I was in a race. A 10K. It had been a spur of the moment entry when a trip to the local running store for some new trainers prompted a question from the shop assistant..
‘how come you have never done a race then?’
I have chatted a bit about this before and i have genuinely never felt the need or the desire to gallop around a certain distance with a bunch of other lycra lovelies. I just never have. Im not hugely competitive and there is so much more to why i go out for a run than the actual exercise. Anyway you can read about that here and here because i have mused on it before.
But driven by the lovely shop assitants incredulous response to me saying i have never really wanted to race I came home and googled 10K in the North West and i discovered that there was one at Outlon Park, a racing circuit, near us in Cheshire. So i punched my details in on the keyboard and thought not a lot else about it.
Until i realised that it was coming round really quickly. So it was time to get race ready. Now if you follow me on instagram then you will have seen that the week before i was due to run I was off out in the Yorkshire moors running some of my longest distances to date. Which apparently is not the thing you do before a run. But really how could i not go out when my environment looked like this:
So i ran probably a little too much in the week leading up to it but nevertheless set off, feeling very nervous, close to puking, and having panic attacks about coming in last. Its like entering a whole new world turning up on race day. I was a little bit like the city kid who has never seen a farm animal. It was very much a case of trying hard not to stare at people! There was A LOT of lycra, a LOT of strange and wonderfully weird warm up routines and thankfully a lot of people who looked a lot like me.
The race was around the actual race track three times, which if i had given that much thought before hand i would have summised that i wouldnt like going round and round in circles. Im not a great fan of covering back over my tracks i like to do a good loop and try not cover the same route. I think it keeps things interesting. Part of what i really like about running is getting out and seeing the world and passing by the same thing three times would have left me a bit flat. But here i was so might as well get on with it. Registering and getting the little pin on number made it all seem very real. I flapped on and off about what i should wear, should i have a coat on, hat, should i carry some water, how many times could i go to the porta-loo in one hour? Whilst sitting on the aforementioned potty..i thought to myself how ridiculous it was that i was getting myself in a flap. It had started the night before to be honest when i had headed to twitter and pestered my online friend and long suffering receiver of all my running type questions, Ben, with so many probably inane worries that he answered with good grace and patience.
It was time to stop fretting and just get going.
We had to walk to the start…onto the track and down to the little computerised sleeping policeman bump that clocks when you actually cross. Waiting for what seemed like ages. To then be called forward. I thought this was the start but actually we then all stood for a little while just huddled together. I was toward the back of the group and this felt a little claustrophobic. A bit like being squashed in a lift. Everyone applauded, i have no idea why…and then a whistle blew and we set off.
I have to be honest and start probably was the bit I was most worried about. I had visions of it being a bit like of a scuffle and elbows being utilised to find a decent place in the pack. But it wasn’t quite as bad as i had thought and folk seemed to find their little spot pretty easily. There was a lycra clad cyclist out in front with ‘race marker’ on a bright tabard being chased by the serious runners at the front. We were off.
Winding round a track that has been designed for racing cars seemed to be a lot of crossing from one inside bend to another. The track was actually pretty hilly and had a couple of nasty hairpin bends, where everyone bunched back up again to get the inside route. One was on quite a steep hill and there were so many people doubling back on themselves in the first lap, that the speed slowed so much that it was almost hard to not drop into a walk. I didn’t enjoy the first lap at all. I found it hard to find my stride, my legs felt heavy and my breathing was all over the place. I had made the decision to wear my headphones. I generally always run to music and as we had decided (thats me and the OH) that the best thing to do, as there was so much i wasn’t sure about, was to keep things the same as i usually would. So i wore my headphones and clicked on my nike running app as i crossed the start line.
Unfortunately for some reason I must have checked a different playlist for selection and i soon discovered that easy listening sounds where not the best motivation to get a move on. To terrified to stop and change it and worrying that if i got my phone out of my pocket and tried to do it while running I would drop it. I carried on being ushered along my the soft sounds of Eva Cassidy!!
By the end of the first lap I was feeling a little more comfortable and starting to find my way. The field had stretched out and a quick glance back told me that i was probably about somewhere in the middle which i felt a little happier with. Comforted that my nightmare of coming over the line last with someone tapping their stopwatch in frustration was unlikely to happen.
The good thing about going round and round in circles was that the family positioned themselves in one place and got to see me three times as a i passed. The second time round the track I caught sight of them all frantically waving and cheering. Holding up signs that they had scrawled messages on to encourage me. It was really lovely and hearing their shouts of ‘GO MUMMY!” really gave me a boost. My two older girls ran beside me for a little while as well, laughing and throwing their arms in the air, ushering me on. It as really special.
On my second lap i decided i would take on some water. i don’t usually run with a water bottle. Generally i have a dog lead in one hand so i don’t want to carry something else as well. But there were a line of young, yellow tabarded boys handing out little water pouches so i navigated towards them on the second lap and grabbed one as i past. Looking at the bottle top though as i bobbed along i could not work out how you actually got the water into my mouth. There was slight lip on the pouch but when i tipped it up into my mouth nothing happened. Almost about to chuck it, I tried one last time and squeezed with a little more force. Well that did the trick and a small jet of icy cold water shot into my mouth and taking me surprise i almost inhaled it! Coughing and spluttering as i slowed a little for a minute I giggled to myself that I might end up needing the paramedic units for nothing to do with over-doing it on the actual run but aspirating on some of the free water
I think it was very clear that i was a beginner to this sort of thing! I missed the ‘dropzone’ for the water bottle so ended up carrying it for the rest of the lap!
The third lap i was comfortable and just concentrated on maintaining my speed. Which was a touch faster than i would normally do but it felt okay so i just kept on going. We peeled off into the pits of the track to run the finish line and i even managed a bit of a sprint (ish) up to the line. I had done it! I was ready for my medal!
Sadly there wasn’t one but i was offered a jelly baby or a jaffa cake..which i declined. But i took my bag with assorted flyers and a peanut butter sports bar in and discovered the family rushing over from their viewing spot to give hugs and congratulations.
I felt okay, not exhausted or shattered. The actual process of the race as perhaps not massively enjoyable but the feeling on finishing it was exhilarating! We watched the half marathon runners line up for their six times round the track and i started to wonder if actually a half marathon was the next step!